methane

Greenhouse Hothouse Firehouse: Scientists Set out Pathways for Planet Earth

Read time: 6 mins
Los Angeles city skyline at sunset

By Martin Bush. Reposted with permission from ClimateZone.org.

A scientific paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is getting a lot of attention. Written in the dry style of systems analysis — and throughout the text referring to the planet as the “Earth System,” it nevertheless brilliantly manages to present the looming dangers of extreme climate change in a way that has powerfully resonated with many people. People who are worried about climate change, but aren’t exactly sure what the future holds, how bad it’s going to get, and how to avoid being dragged in that direction. 

Methane Leaks from Oil and Gas 60% Higher Than EPA Estimates, New Study Finds

Read time: 6 mins
Emissions from oil and gas infrastructure

Each year, oil and gas industry operations in the U.S. are leaking roughly 60 percent more methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into our atmosphere than previous estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which relied heavily on self-reporting by the industry.

That's the conclusion of a study published today in the peer-reviewed journal Science and conducted with funding from the Department of Energy, NASA, and private foundations. The two dozen researchers involved found that the U.S. oil and gas supply chain releases between 11 and 15 million metric tons of methane per year. 

“This study confirms the growing body of peer-reviewed science indicating oil and gas extraction's methane pollution makes it as harmful to climate as coal burning's carbon dioxide pollution,” said Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell University professor emeritus of engineering and vice president of Earthworks' board of directors.

This Vigilante Scientist Trekked Over 10,000 Kilometres to Reveal B.C.’s Leaking Gas Wells

Read time: 10 mins
John Werring in the field

If you’d met John Werring four years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to tell you what an abandoned gas well looked like.

We had no idea whether they were even accessible,” said the registered professional biologist.

That was before the summer of 2014, when he headed up to Fort St. John, B.C., on a reconnaissance mission. At that time, much was known about leaking gas wells in the United States, but there was very little data on Canada.

All Werring had to work with was a map of abandoned wells provided by B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission. Armed with a gas monitor and a metal detector, he headed into what the gas industry calls the “Montney formation,” one of the largest shale gas resources in the world. Shale gas is primarily accessed via hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Most of these places, there’s nobody in the field,” Werring said. “You won’t see anybody for miles and miles. Just well after well after well.”

New NASA Study Solves Climate Mystery, Confirms Methane Spike Tied to Oil and Gas

Read time: 5 mins
Global map of percent changes in acres burning

Over the past few years, natural gas has become the primary fuel that America uses to generate electricity, displacing the long-time king of fossil fuels, coal. In 2019, more than a third of America's electrical supply will come from natural gas, with coal falling to a second-ranked 28 percent, the Energy Information Administration predicted this month, marking the growing ascendency of gas in the American power market.

But new peer-reviewed research adds to the growing evidence that the shift from coal to gas isn't necessarily good news for the climate.

A team led by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed that the oil and gas industry is responsible for the largest share of the world's rising methane emissions, which are a major factor in climate change — and in the process the researchers resolved one of the mysteries that has plagued climate scientists over the past several years.

How Has the US Fracking Boom Affected Air Pollution in Shale Areas?

Read time: 7 mins
Trucks in front of a flare at a fracking site

By Gunnar W. Schade, Texas A&M University

Urban air pollution in the U.S. has been decreasing near continuously since the 1970s.

Federal regulations, notably the Clean Air Act passed by President Nixon, to reduce toxic air pollutants such as benzene, a hydrocarbon, and ozone, a strong oxidant, effectively lowered their abundance in ambient air with steady progress.

But about 10 years ago, the picture on air pollutants in the U.S. started to change. The “fracking boom” in several different parts of the nation led to a new source of hydrocarbons to the atmosphere, affecting abundances of both toxic benzene and ozone, including in areas that were not previously affected much by such air pollution.

Ex-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg: 'Clean Coal' Is BS, but Feds Should 'Stay Out of the Way' on Climate

Read time: 5 mins
Center, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg

At a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) summit in New York City this week, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was blunt about the prospects for so-called “clean coal.”

“Carbon capture is total bullshit,” he told the crowd of several hundred top energy industry executives and financiers. “This is a figment of imagination.”

Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

Read time: 4 mins
Natural gas power plant

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates. 

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue's flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

Trump Names Industry Lobbyist and Climate Science Denier Mike Catanzaro as Top White House Energy Aide

Read time: 5 mins
Mike Catanzaro

GreenWire has reported that climate change denier Mike Catanzaro — a lobbyist for oil and gas companies Noble Energy, Devon Energy, Encana Oil and GasAmerican Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and Hess Corporation — will soon become a top energy policy aide for President Donald Trump

Catanzaro's lobbying disclosure forms for quarter four of 2016 serve as a potential preview of energy policy to come from the Trump White House. During that quarter, Catanzaro lobbied against U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane regulations, against U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement offshore drilling regulations, and for oil and gas development on U.S. public lands. 

As DeSmog has reported, Catanzaro served as a top energy aide during Trump's presidential campaign. According to GreenWire, he is expected to serve as special assistant to Trump for energy and environmental issues under the umbrella of the White House National Economic Council.

Congress Plans Back Door Tactic to Scrap Methane Pollution Rule — and These Are the Oil Companies That Will Benefit

Read time: 6 mins
Natural gas flare

Republican leaders in Congress say they’ll use an obscure rule called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule as early as next week. The rule, finalized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in November 2016, requires oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from operations on federal and tribal lands. 

An open records request from environmental group Friends of the Earth reveals the top three companies — ExxonMobil, Devon Energy, and Encana Energy — which will profit from the rule’s rollback.

Protections for Rare and Endangered Animals Under Threat from Permian Basin Drilling Industry

Read time: 12 mins

Midland, Texas — Monarch butterflies, tiny lizards, and a type of grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken all drew close scrutiny from a large gathering of oil and gas executives at the Permian Basin Petroleum Association's annual meeting this year.

Fracking has helped turn the Permian Basin into the nation's most productive oil field — and the only part of the U.S. where the oil industry continues to expand robustly despite a price slump that began in mid-2014.

But the parched Permian Basin is also home to a broad array of rare wildlife, including a significant number of species already considered threatened or endangered. With the Fish and Wildlife Service considering adding dozens more species in Texas to their lists, the oil industry here is sweating (and not simply because last month was the warmest October in Midland in over 80 years of record-keeping).

Endangered species may prove to be an unexpected Achilles heel for the Permian drilling industry as it attempts to turn the deserts of west Texas into an oil “well factory” — a dense field of wellpads, pipelines and access roads built right amid unique ecosystems and habitats for wild animals that may be at risk of extinction.

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